Monday, 5 December 2011

Darlo Worth Three Points

Surprise surprise - there is another weekend of engineering on the District and Hammersmith & City lines - all in preparation for the masses for next year's Olympics - and I have to catch the 115 to Canning Town.

In order to get the best ticket prices, Martin and I are on a slightly earlier train today which means that by the time we arrive at Bank Top, I have plenty of time to pop into Taylors without wasting valuable drinking time.  I bump into Tony on the way.

Once vitteled up, we hit the Quaker a few minutes before opening so we can get out of the cold.  But we're still not the first ones in - no sirree, Bob.  There is a guy sat at the bar - he orders a bit of Old Rosie cider and by the time I've given my order, he's downed the whole pint and is ready to order another. Worrying.

On the bar today we have Allendale Swift, Jennings World's Biggest Liar, Goose Eye Black Moor & Bitter, City of Cambridge Boathouse Bitter, Wensleydale Black Dub, Saltaire Winter Ale and Grays Champion Ale.

The Swift is an old favourite of ours but the Winter Ale is a canny drop.

A good choice too up in Number Twenty-2 Bradfield Farmers Blonde, Consett Ale Works Stout, Hawkshead RedLakeland Gold, Ilkley Mary Jane, Goose Eye Pommie's Revenge and Daleside Bitter in addition to the home range.

Adam Rundle shoots and scores
Quite a few beers stand out here but the Pommie's Revenge, the ever excellent Lakeland Gold and the stout were really excellent.

Today is pretty darned cold and the first at which I'd really wished I'd put on my long johns - by the end I was frozen stiff.  I'll not make this mistake at the next game.

I think hopes amongst the fans had been raised by our away win at Ebbsfleet the previous weekend and I know that we wanted to exact revenge after Tamworth inflicted our first defeat so early into the season.

Teenage goal-hero Dale Hopson was once again the main focus of attention and once again he was working well with the rest of the team.  However chances in the first half were at a premium as Tamworth put on a professional display.

Adam Rundle hit the woodwork but there were precious few other chances for the Quakers whilst at the other end, McReady cleared off the line from Iyseden Christie (still mobile) and Sam Russell made a couple of decent saves.

With Quakers under the cosh as they protected a single-goal lead, the 19-year-old latched on to a long pass from Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, missed by keeper Jonathon Hedge who was way outside his penalty area having been forward for a corner, and showed composure to seal victory.

In the second half Darlo started to show a bit more guile with Hatch and Rundle starting to put together some decent moves and put pressure on the Tamworth back four.  But it was teenager Hopson who was the architect for the opening goal as he set Rundle free with a neat pass leaving the striker to slip the goal past the visiting keeper.

Liam Hatch puts keeper Hedge under pressure
It was probably well deserved as Darlington had been on top for quite a while and were the team pushing for a goal.

But the single goal lead started to look very slender as Tamworth came back into the game and there was some panicky defending at times as the Quakers cleared their lines. Darlo fans were starting to fear the worst.

It was from a Tamworth corner in the dying stages of the game that the home fans were able to breath a sigh of relief.  Keeper Hedge came up for the set piece but as it was cleared he raced back to his goal.

Adam Rundle picked up the ball and slipped it into the Tamworth half where Hopson picked it up and slotted it past Hedge to make it two-nil.

On the whole a deserved victory - three in a row - but Tamworth once again showed they're not a bad side and could easily have got something out of the game.  Darlo however do need to find that cutting edge up front in order to make the most of the chances we're making.

The journey is always more enjoyable after a win and we actually arrived at KX a little earlier than expected.  We popped along to the Euston Tap and were joined shortly after by Chrs and Clarkey from the London Millers.

My old Wycome chum Paul also popped in but started to feel unwell as it was pretty warm in the bar.  He left to go home and it transpired that there was a bit of a sewage leak in one corner of the bar which may have triggered this off.  Not pleasant.

As a result, Tony the manager called time, leaving us time for a final pint before we toddled off home.

Lacking Sparkle

A pretty uneventful start to the day - all clear on the tube and the usual hearty breakfast repast in Da Vincis.

And a fairly quiet trip on the train up too until we were joined by a couple of women at Doncaster.  We almost started off on the wrong foot as Martin thought one was after his seat and was getting ready for an argument.

Debutant Scott Harison
However once we'd got it sorted, we got chatting and found they were Scunthorpe fans without a game and off to York for a girly weekend.  Cue a mutual moan about how our respective teams were underperforming. 

On arrival in Darlo there was a brief detour to the covered market for some grub and then onto the Quaker - John W, Brian and Trev were already in place. Tony and Neil then joined us.
The selection at the bar included Tyne Bank - Monument Bitter and Cherry Stout, Mithril Pilgrim Fathers, York Brewery Terrier and Humbug, Hadrian & Border Enlightenment, Abbeydale Deception (which went off as I tried to get some) and Woodlands Oak Beauty.

I can't say that any of them were outstanding with probably the Humbug being the pick of the bunch but it was a low bar so it wasn't too hard to be best.

It was a totally different story up at Number Twenty-2 though - Bradfields Farmers Stout, and Brown Cow, Hawkshead Windemere Pale, Goose Eye Barm Pott, Mithril Flower Power and Lancaster Lancaster Red being the guests on offer.

The Windemere Pale and Barm Pott were excellent - and much to my surprise the Farmers Stout was also a really good beer.  I've never been impressed by Bradfield beers in the past but this made me think again.
We were joined in the pub by John Bell who'd brought along a few guests - his mum, wife Annette and their new puppy Sparkle. 

It was Sparkle's first visit to a pub and boy was she excited.  She was relatively well behaved and some of the regulars were pleased to meet her.  A bit tiring for John though as he tried to keep her under control - don't think we'll see her back for a while!

It was also nice to meet Annette after....ahem....hearing so much about her from John.  I think it is safe to say we were all expecting someone totally different!

Down at the Arena I checked in and made my way pitchside - I was beginning to wish I'd put another layer on as it was getting pretty damned cold.  I'd vowed not to make this mistake after our previous home game saw me freeze to death. 

The cold hadn't put too many people off as we had a fairly decent crowd of almost 1700 with about 50 away fans making their way north.

With a shortage of players, the game would see a debut for one of the youth team, defender Scott Harrison in as Spike Lee was put up front, as well as a first appearance for Adam Reach, on-loan from the Boro.

It was a pretty drab first-half with very little of note to report - Dale Hopson fired wide early on but we had very few clear cut attempts at goal although we did keep possession well. I spent most of the half trying to keep warm.
A rare shot for Darlo
 from Adam Rundle
To make things worse, Jamie Chandler limped off just before half-time and we lost that cutting edge in midfield.

In the second half the visitors made the most of Chandler's absence and started to show a bit of interest in the game.  This culminated in them hitting the post twice in quick succession after Russell was well beaten.

At the other end, Darlo were restricted to shooting from distance but this shouldn't be surprising as Forest Green have an excellent away record.  Clearly they are used to parking the bus after losing just one away game so far this season.

Sub Sanchez-Munoz came on as a sub but failed to make an impact and the game continued to make little impression and by now I was getting really cold and was longing for the final whistle.  When it came, the score was still 0-0 and was qute frankly a waste of everyones time.

A hassle-free journey home meant this was quite a forgettable day so far as the football was concerned - thank goodness for the excellent beer in N22 and the antics of Sparkle!